Friday, February 10, 2012

What seminaries are for

A couple of good things from the seminaries lately.

First, since CTQ started getting caught up about a year and a half ago, the issues have been amazing. The last two are especially wonderful. I want to read each and every article and just don't have the time. I'm in the midst of Prof. Ziegler on Eduard Preuss right now - very good stuff. I wish I could also recommend CJ from CSL, but, alas, my alma mater's journal has not been up to to CTQ's snuff. I point this out in the Pauline hope that a little jealously will spur on my own people.

Second, CSL has produced what looks to be a great look at the Gospel of Mark. This is geared toward the Vatican II lectionary Year B, Mark's year, but nevertheless sounds like a very insightful look at this Gospel. Since I'm a Historic Lectionary guy it will be better for me in Bible Class, but still very good. BUT THEY ARE CHARGING $50 FOR IT! Revera, Alma Mater? I hope that they are following the model where you have to pay for brand new content, but after a year or so it shows up free. Let's hope.



  1. One of the most memorable and enjoyable classes from Seminary was The Gospel of Mark taught Dr. Voelz. It is too bad it isn't free.

  2. Voelz is an amazing teacher and is indeed at his best with Mark. It is too bad.


  3. Oh, pay up, you cheapskates. You don't give your book away free, Fr. Curtis.

  4. Right, but I'm not on the Synod payroll, or a Synod institution, or supported Synod wide. I do not charge the laypeople of Trinity and Zion Lutheran Churches for my studies of the book of Mark.


  5. So if Voelz (or whoever) had given this resource over to CPH, it would have been ok...?

  6. Josh,

    Sure. CPH exists to make money. They don't solicit donations from me and my parish. They just make products and hope we buy them.

    But the seminary does solicit. They serve the whole Synod. They are to elevate us, not hide behind a pay wall (in my humble opinion). This is why CJ and CTQ are free.

    That ideal of the seminary as the dispenser of wisdom and knowledge for a Synod that needs to hear it is undercut whenever they charge for anything. Maybe that's not the vision of the seminary that will hold in the future. But I think that would be a great loss for the Synod as a whole.

    MIT recently put all of their classes online. All of them. It's called MIT OpenCourseWare. Now that's mission mindedness. . . for engineering.


  7. MIT's FY2011 revenues also exceed their expenditures by $180 Million, FWIW.

    I'm not saying I disagree with you, but MIT isn't deferring maintenance, are they? It's a little easier to "give away the store" when you're running in the black.

    Further, I wonder what the cost was to produce this resource, and does what they charge defray some of the cost, all the cost, or could they stand to turn a profit. Even if it would be a net gain, I don't think the proceeds from "Seeing is Not Believing" is going to put the Advancement Department out of business.

    Would this have been a freebie if CSL were in a strong financial position? Maybe, maybe not. Could they have gotten Thrivent or LWML or someone to sponsor it? Maybe.

    I guess what I'm failing to understand is this: when is it okay or not okay for a seminary prof of a seminary entity to sell something? The seminary chorus CDs aren't free. Festschriften are not free. Books published by CPH written by sem profs are not free.

    Also, if CSL were to offer this resource for free, would they not also be "competing" against CPH (and others) who put out their own Lenten materials?

    Yeah, I mean, I'd love to wave a magic wand and have anything and everything that the seminaries produce be free, too, but that would also mean producing graduates free of debt.

    On the list of things worth being mad or upset or frustrated about concerning our seminaries, I have a hard time putting this anywhere but the bottom (unless you list it as symptomatic of something near the top of the list).

    I look forward to your (or anyone else's) response.

  8. Just for the record: I was actually, just kind of joking when I said, "Pay up, you cheapskates." I really don't care if they sell it or give it away free. But maybe it is a worthwhile subject to explore.

  9. Josh,

    They can do whatever they like, sell whatever they like, etc. It's a free country. They are not doing anything wrong or sinful.

    But they are redefining themselves away from the ivory tower that is there to give light to the Synod. This is a step away from CJ and CTQ's model of "scholarship for the Synod, for free."

    It's also pennywise, pound foolish, in my opinion. What does a video lecture of Dr. Voelz teaching cost to produce in this day and age? Pretty small change. Tons of pastors do this week in and week out for fun and put it on youtube. So why charge $50? Is that going to close the Sem's gap? I kinda doubt it. But giving it away for free might remind folks of how indispensable the sem is.

    Perhaps places that view knowledge as something valuable enough to make free for all are the kind of places that end up in the black. . .


  10. "It's also pennywise, pound foolish . . . ."

    As a former CTS employee, this was a never-ending issue. They couldn't see or get past the lowest hanging fruit. And so the harvest was always smaller. Since they always thought of the little stuff, how to make a quick buck, they never really developed the great opportunities to bring in real dough through the stuff they have to offer.

    I don't know about CSL, but I thought that they always got this, especially considering their output on iTunes U.

  11. I wasn't asking about wrong or sinful, I was asking about when it is or is not okay for them to sell some in keeping with this idea of providing invaluable resources for free. I mean, this is not the first time Concordia Press (or CTSFW Press) has made something available that they didn't give away for free. Like I mentioned in my previous post: Festschriften, other faculty authored books, Kantorei cds or whatever. This goes back more than a decade, does it not? Did I miss the outcry from these other things in the past? Was the Sasse book that Dr. Kloha edited 17 years ago offered free of charge when it was first published? I assume not; and assuming I'm correct, wasn't this CSL redefinition happening almost 20 years ago, if not longer?

    This is the cause of my confusion: it's nothing new for an LCMS seminary to charge something for a resource it produces. But only now is it portrayed as some kind of redefinition?

    I'm completely on board with you about pennywise and pound foolish (it's like a "Chinsese" finger puzzle - it's counterintuitive, but I agree with you and Pr. Braaten that if they cranked out a ton of great material and made it free, or dirt cheap, that it would build a ton of good will and pay off big in the long run).

    But you also kinda agree with my point that the profits form it are "going to put the Advancement Department out of business." I don't think they were thinking "let's turn a profit" or "let's make some money." And I don't think the idea for this resource was hatched over at Advancement. I don't know anything that you guys don't, but my hunch is that this was an activity that Voelz and Co. decided to do on the side, there wasn't room for it in the budget, and even if it didn't cost a lot, it did cost something (and again, if it wasn't in the budget...); another likely scenario is that they want to get an accurate gauge of how many pastors or congregations are going to use it. IF it's free, anybody can download it, but then you only know how many people downloaded it, not how many actually used it (I've downloaded Voelz's Elementary Greek lectures four or five times from iTunes, for example). If you're paying $50 for it, you're using it. If you're not using it, you sent it back and got your money refunded. Having an accurate and reliable metric such as this allows the seminary to gauge if this, or something like it, is worth the effort and if it's valued by the synod at large. I don't think there was any kind of fund-raising or profit-driven motive here, but again, I'm just speculating.

  12. Josh,

    All good points. It just seems to me that this is exactly the kind of thing you would typically make available for free: it's aimed at helping the preaching of the Church, it's a prof lecturing on a not-strictly academic topic, and it's a video. Seems to scream "Put me out there!" not "Stick it behind a pay wall!"

    Really, I'd feel a lot better if I knew Dr. Voelz were getting a cut. The worker is worthy of his hire and all. I hope that's the case.

    But either way, this is just the sort of thing that I think the seminaries should put out there for free: stuff that makes the pastorate better.

    Indeed, how great would it be if they went the MIT route and put all the lectures up each and ever quarter? Let the Synod into the classroom. . .



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